Remembering La Cocina de Tita Moning through Manila’s Tour Expert Anson Yu

One rainy evening as I was traveling with friends, I was suddenly introduced to a man who was a total debonair. He was charming, well traveled and cultured, successful and sophisticated yet remained solid in his values. He was down-to-earth, very approachable and family-oriented. He was a true gentleman. And I absolutely had an undeniable special connection with him.

For some reason the connection lasted only for a moment. Four hours to be exact. And I’m not sure if I would ever see him again…

This sounds so unfortunate, right? I’m not sure if I’d be happy about this or not but this is not entirely accurate as this all happened not with a man but with a restaurant. Yes, you heard it right! Whew! This restaurant has the exact description that I wrote about that man… We had a special connection and “he” was perfect.

And now, he’s gone…

garden

The home and restaurant’s organic garden.

THE INTRODUCTION

I have a friend who exactly knows what I like about food and places, and she was the one who invited me to “meet” La Cocina de Tita Moning. The other major bonus was besides from being with my friend Len, we were also with the best person to take us around the 15-year old restaurant.

This person is Anson Yu. He’s a businessman, writer, photographer and an expert tour guide in Manila. And he lead us to having one of the best experiences meeting this restaurant-debonair while bidding him farewell at the same time. This feeling about a restaurant was unique. It was bittersweet and I never felt that way with any restaurants to date.

Each dinner experience starts with a tour of the ancestral home

Each dinner experience starts with a tour of the ancestral home

GETTING TO KNOW

Our experience at La Cocina de Tita Moning started with a tour with Anson. He first learned about this ancestral home-resto in 2001. And after a few years, that’s when he started bringing people to try it out. He brought more guests when he started working for Old Manila Walks having assigned the Malacañang Palace Tour to him. It was at La Cocina where he ended his tours with a Merienda Menu (Sotanghon, Chicken Relleno and Ginataan) for his famished guests.

Sala

The Sala or Living Room that’s rich with family pictures and well-known paintings from Filipino artists Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo.

HISTORY

JM: Can you share a brief history about La Cocina? How it started? About the family and the meals that they cooked?

Anson: The house belonged to the Legarda Family. It was built in 1937 and was one of the earliest houses in Manila to be built in Art Deco Style. It came to the ownership of Doctor Alejandro Legarda after his mother passed away. He then moved in with his second wife, Ramona a.k.a. Tita Moning. When they got married they traveled extensively for their honeymoon. Since Tita Moning wanted to be accepted by her new in-laws, she tried to learn as much as she could about cooking during her travels.

After the couple moved into their new home, Tita Moning developed a reputation as one of Manila’s best hostess because of her cooking. But for Tita Moning her food was an expression of her love. So she started a tradition in her family that all the members should be present at the house for Sunday lunch. It did not matter if her grandchildren were out partying all night long, but Sunday noon they had to be at the house.

Among those that grew up eating Tita Moning’s cooking is her grand daughter Suzette. By the time her grand parents passed away, she had this idea to serve Tita Moning’s recipe to the public. Being a graduate of Swiss hospitality school, Le Roche, she asked her relative if it was possible for her to use the ancestral home as a venue for her restaurant. She got their nod of approval and the rest you can say was history.






That’s a great story about the place, Anson. Now I feel more nostalgic about it.

THE LAST SUPPER

Having our moment of “fine dining in an ancestral home” (the famous line about this restaurant) reminded me about The Last Supper. Everybody’s enjoying it, the food, the company but at the same time it’s saddening to know that it’s going to be our last meal at this beautiful ancestral home. So what did we enjoy for our Last Supper?

First Course:

SOUP OR SALAD?

(You can choose from their A la Carte Menu)

soup

A choice between Sopa de Molo with Fresh Buko (Native Pork Dumpling Soup) or Sopa de Oro (Cream of Pumpkin Soup)

(Len and I shared her choice of soup which was the Cream of Pumpkin Soup and my choice of salad below, so we can try both.) 

salad

A choice between Roasted Beet Salad with Organic Greens, torched Davao Goat Cheese and Caramelized Walnuts

OR

Fresh Papaya Salad with Jamon Serrano, Fresh Basil from the resto's garden, carabao cheese and a honey calamansi vinaigrette

Fresh Papaya Salad with Jamon Serrano, Fresh Basil from the resto’s garden, carabao cheese and a honey calamansi vinaigrette

(Anson’s choice of salad was so fresh and refreshing! We all loved it!)

MAIN COURSE

lengua

Lengua cooked in white wine with Paella Valenciana

OR

pork

Slowly Roasted Pork with Candied Sweet Camote with Paella Valenciana

(They also served us with sautéed spinach instead of the sautéed fresh ubod. We enjoyed it! It was cooked fresh from their garden.)

here

This is “Salsa Monja”, a condiment served at the center of each table and is used and made by nuns to accompany the meals of the Spanish friars. We ate this with our bread and they also suggested for us to eat it together with our dinner. As what they said, it makes everything a little more delicious.

THE FAMOUS DESSERT PUDDING

dessert

This is Tita Moning’s Bread and Butter Pudding… (to share)

COFFEE, NATIVE CHOCOLATE, HERB TEA OR ME?

What do we have here...

What do we have here…Of course knowing us we chose the Native Hot Tsokolate :)

FAVORITES AND CONVERSATIONS

Len capturing my love for this hot chocolate!

Len capturing my love for this hot chocolate with cinnamon stick!

JM: Anson, thanks for touring us around. But what’s your favorite room and memory at La Cocina?

Anson: My favorite room has to be the den mainly because of the books, the furniture and the cool dim lighting. Another corner I like is on the second floor. It used to be an open balcony, until it was enclosed. With the blinds, desk, antique fan and puffy chair, it looks like a scene from an exotic safari.

Anson and Len at Anson's favorite room

Anson and Len at Anson’s favorite room

Favorite memories…. the conversations I had with guests about Filipino culture and history, as well as learning about their history and culture. Another would be their bread and butter pudding. Every bite is memorable.




The bread and butter pudding… Delicious indeed (and every course was memorable too)! I’m glad I was able to try it for the first and last time. Haha. 



Len and Anson

Anson making sure Len and I will take home some new knowledge about the house’s history

JM: What about your fondest meal at the house?

Anson: Maybe my first meal? Back then they had bells on the table to get the staff’s attention and you can have your second or third servings.

JM: Anson, by the looks of it, it seems like you have one of the best jobs in the world! Maybe you can describe more about what you do and what you like most about your work…

Anson: My work schedule sometimes feels like I am walking a tight rope. I try to balance between doing my duties in the family business, conducting a walking tour and working on an article or editing a photo. Why I do this is guess for the rewards not necessarily monetary rewards, but knowing that my time and effort was not a waste. This could be in the form of a praise or an encouragement. It could also be knowing that what I did actually benefited someone.

doctor

Dr. Alejandro Legarda was also an OB Gynecologist who received his patients at his home clinic.

JM: I agree with you. It’s the fulfillment that makes our work more rewarding. With that, do you have any advice to give to those who are still struggling in searching for a work that will make them happy?

Anson: If you are still working your way up in the world one piece of advice I can give is that be willing to learn from your mistakes… Don’t dismiss any criticisms regarding your work or how you do things, but be willing to learn and improve yourself. Not taking yourself too seriously is also a good thing to learn.

I think that entails humility, to embrace corrections, to learn and improve! It’s also good to have fun in between some serious work. Good words to take in, Anson.

More interesting rooms with vintage radio collection

More interesting rooms like this one with the owner’s vintage radio collection

JM: Well, we’re already nearing the end of our last course… While we’re enjoying this hot chocolate, if you have the opportunity to wish or choose on what could be next for La Cocina de Tita Moning, what are they and why?

Anson: I like for them to keep the patio at the back opened to the public. I like the fact they are serving simple but delicious food that is affordable. I particularly like the baked huevos, which is eggs baked in oven over tomato sauce and spinach.

Maybe in its next incarnation La Cocina could survive as a take away operation. This way we can still try out specialties such as the saba with vermouth and the bread and butter pudding with pili nuts.

Thank you Len and Anson!

Thank you Len and Anson!

Awww… Anson and Len, what a bittersweet way to end our evening at La Cocina, right? The bread and butter pudding and the hot chocolate… the conversations…

Saying hello and goodbye to this 19th Century old ancestral home-resto was a unique experience for me. I can only imagine how hard it was for those who had been working at this restaurant for years and its patrons as well. Kudos to their passion in bringing good food and memories for 15 years in Manila!

Thank you Len and Anson for introducing me to La Cocina de Tita Moning. It’s been months since they closed their restaurant but I’m still dreaming about the meals that we had that evening. From start to finish… It was a nice end to discover a hidden treasure that will always be remembered in Manila.

here

The Treasure in Manila: No. 315 San Rafael St. San Miguel Manila. Until then, La Cocina de Tita Moning…

Do we still have other ancestral home-restos here in Manila that’s worth the visit? I want to visit other places that has both historic and gastronomic value. Do you have your own personal memories at La Cocina de Tita MoningTell me about it.

 

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2 Comments

  • September 16, 2016

    Len

    Sigh…I know what you mean. I miss the place as well. I really hope we find a heritage home- resto we can rave about again. I’m just so blessed to have been able to go back with dear friends for one last time before it closed.❤️

    • September 16, 2016

      Joanne-Marie

      Likewise. Let’s find one soon with Anson! ❤️😉